Crypto 2019: a Year in Review (Part 1)

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2019 has been another bumper year for crypto, from the highs of Bitcoin’s surprise bull run to the lows of Craig Wright embarrassing himself via two courtroom defeats. So two highs, then.

Our four-part review of 2019 looks back at the top stories that shook the cryptocurrency world this year, starting with January-March, taking in an important tenth birthday, big banks launching cryptocurrencies, a long-awaited Coinbase addition, and more.

Look out for parts two, three, and four later in the week.

Bakkt on the Backburner…Again

The first quarter of 2019 didn’t start well for crypto, with the news that the much-anticipated Bakkt launch was, yet again, delayed, this time due to the government shutdown that was freezing many areas of business.

The platform had been set to launch on January 24, but was pushed back to “early 2019”, which did not go down well in crypto circles. The news didn’t have much of an effect on the Bitcoin price, probably because it was already stuck at the bottom of a $3,500 slump following its huge correction two months previously, where it would more or less stay throughout the entire quarter, prompting suggestions from many outside the space that it was dead. Again.

Bitcoin’s Genesis Block Celebrates its 10th Birthday

Crypto was back in celebratory mood a few days after Bakkt delay following the tenth anniversary of the mining of the genesis block – the first Bitcoin ever mined. The first line of mining code, which came with a 50 reward, arrived on January 3, with the first BTC transaction made nine days later between Satoshi Nakamoto and Hal Finney, prompting the now famous “running Bitcoin” tweet:

Exchanges Take the Headlines

Cryptopia took the dubious honor of becoming the first exchange to be hacked in 2019, with an estimated $16 million worth of tokens stolen over two attacks in mid-January. The attack would be investigated by New Zealand police, with the exchange cleared to resume trading the following month. However, with wallet access still not yet opened, the exchange would enter liquidation in May, trapping users funds in the process, and finally sealing the once-popular exchange’s fate.

February brought with it a sensation that took over the crypto world as well as garnering huge mainstream media attention – the QuadrigaCX scandal. QuadrigaCX founder Gerald Cotten’s wife Jennifer Robertson had announced his death the previous month, but it was in February that it was discovered that Cotten had disappeared with the keys to all the exchange’s funds, though to contain some $190 million at the time. This threw up a number of conspiracy theories, not helped when 103 was sent to an inaccessible exchange wallet by accident.

Further investigations revealed shocking mismanagement of the exchange’s funds by Cotten, who seemed to be running it like an amateur operation, with the exchange ending up owing seven times its final balance to customers. The story was to develop as the year progressed, turning into one of cryptocurrency’s most enduring mysteries as it did.

XRP Finally Gets its Wish

Better news for crypto fans emerged in late February when Samsung announced that their new Galaxy S10 phone would contain a built-in crypto wallet, marking a turning point in mass acceptance of crypto. XRP fans were celebrating even more when they finally reached the holy grail and landed a Coinbase listing after loud and long complaints from the XRP army, resulting in a meagre 11% temporary rise in the token price.

The celebrations were cut short when banking giant JPMorgan announced their proprietary JPMCoin, which some saw as a potential nail in XRP’s coffin.

March was a busy time, with Bitmain’s IPO expiring following little interest in the mining giant and Cboe closing their doors to Bitcoin futures trading, twin signs that Bitcoin was starting to stink the place out.

Mark Karpelès, Mt. Gox CEO at the time the platform collapsed in 2014, defied the odds and was found not guilty of embezzlement in mid-March, around the same time that rumors of a Facebook coin began to build. If this was potential good news for Bitcoin, what certainly was good news was a report that suggested that, as part of the Bakkt deal, Starbucks would begin accepting Bitcoin payments in 2019.

Bitcoin’s Glum Quarter

Bitcoin ended the first quarter sitting at around $4,000 having started it at $3,500 and spent three months boring everyone involved in it half to death. Exchanges were sacking staff or quitting the game entirely, while alts were losing value week after week as Bitcoin stangated. Overall, the first quarter of 2019 was not a great time to be in crypto.

As we’ll see in part two of our 2019 review however, things weren’t to stay dull for long – Bitcoin would soon double in value, China would try and ban Bitcoin mining (depending who you believed), and something called Libra would divide opinion.